Rolling over us like a tidal wave and filling our chest with a pool of disturbing emotions, anxious thoughts have a way of pouring into many of our lives. The uncomfortable feelings they invoke, even on a subtle level, intensify as we venture through tough events.
Attempting to dam the floodwaters from getting through using drugs, alcohol or even food prove fleeting in the short term and dangerous to our health in the long term.
But there’s a reason to keep our heads up, looking towards the trees. We all have access to a compelling healer of stress, anxiety, depression (and the general fear of failure most of it stems from) and we don’t need a prescription for it. The wilderness provides one of the most direct paths to internal peace, and science and intuition back this up.
A National Geographic article on this idea referenced Paracelsus, the 16th-century German-Swiss physician on intuitive reasoning when he said, “The art of healing comes from nature, not from the physician.”
Recently, scientists and researchers proved what people already thought to be true since Paracelsus’ time. Among many studies, the article touches on why the outdoors bring calmness: “The forest walkers hit a relaxation jackpot: Overall they showed a 16 percent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, a 2 percent drop in blood pressure, and a 4 percent drop in heart rate. Miyazaki believes our bodies relax in pleasant, natural surroundings because they evolved there. Our senses are adapted to interpret information about plants and streams, he says, not traffic and high-rises.”
If you haven’t yet recognized this natural trail to tranquility first hand, you could start with any hiking trail, camping, lake, river, mountain or beach near you right now. The more remote, the better.
In our own Pacific Northwest backyard, we have an adoration for the old-growth woods. The area holds some of the last ancient living “whales” of the dirt. The moss-covered trees that stand hundreds of feet taller than us, and have been here 700 plus years longer than we will ever live, have something to tell us. Not in words, but in the feelings they conjure while walking through their forests — like being in the presence of the silent awareness spiritual teachers encourage us all to embrace. We can feel it in the mountains and waters too.
The healing power of nature will weave itself through many of our posts. It’s the why behind our quest to be outdoors, travel, respect for the Earth and honor for our own Selves. The longer we spend in nature, the more we seek out expanding simplicity in our way of life.